Reputed mob boss Joey Merlino pleads guilty, avoids retrial

Only FOX 29 was there as Philadelphia mob boss Joey Merlino walked out of the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan Friday morning after doing something he's never done before--pleading guilty to a crime.

"Why did you decide to plead can't discuss the case," FOX 29's Dave Schratwieser asked. "My lawyer said don't talk about it," Merlino told FOX 29.

"Well, we've never done that before. It's a first for Joey and it's a first for me. We've never taken a guilty plead before," Edwin Jacobs, Merlino's attorney, told FOX 29 .

Dressed in a blue pin-striped suit, the 56-year-old Merlino stood before a judge and admitted he was guilty of using a communications device to place bets.

"Joey's been gambling his whole life and when you gamble on a virtual daily basis makes common sense that here and there you may step across the boundaries of some federal statute," Jacobs explained.

Merlino was the only one of 46 defendants in the infamous east coast LCN mob case to take the case to trial, but that ended with a hung jury in February. The jury count was 10 to 2 to convict Merlino in a massive healthcare fraud and that could have gotten him ten plus years in prison. Now, he faces only 2 years.

"This was an offer we couldn't refuse," Jacobs said with a smile on his face.

Merlino left the courthouse trailed by photographers and reporters. Never shy with the media, Merlino commented on a number of topics, from the release of his friend Meek Mill from prison this week, to the fate of the 76ers after their first round playoff win earlier this week.

"Yeah, i'm glad he's home with his family where he belongs. He belongs at home," Merlino said, adding that he texted Meek Mill after his release from prison.

"The Sixers will win the championship--all the way," he said.

But when it came to reports of a new federal investigation underway in Philadelphia and a recent round of federal subpoenas being served on bookmakers, Merlino was not so talkative.

"Subpoenas go out virtually every day of the week. They're in a sense like snowflakes. No two are the same but there's a whole lot of them," Jacobs said.

Merlino will be sentenced in mid-September and since he won't be in prison this summer we asked if he was planning any trips to the Jersey Shore. He said probably not.

The judge consented to having authorities remove Merlino's GPS ankle bracelet. He will also be allowed to self report to prison instead of being remanded immediately on sentencing day, which is now set for September 13 in New York.